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Biography

image of walt esselman

Walter J. Esselman, PhD, is Senior Associate Dean of Research in the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Dr. Esselman steers the research efforts in the departments and divisions in the College of Human Medicine. He also oversaw the creation of the Health Colleges Research Services Office, which provides pre-award grant submission services to the departments of three colleges. The office also matches medical students to faculty members for research experiences.

Known for fostering cross-college research collaborations, Dr. Esselman has expanded these efforts to foster regional and national cooperation. Most recently, he recruited a Stanford University professor to lead the MSU-based Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering (IQ), and a Harvard Medical School professor to implement MSU’s Precision Health program. From 2016-2019, Esselman led the College of Human Medicine’s efforts to hire 19 researchers through the University’s Global Impact Initiative. Through this Initiative, MSU will recruit more than 100 new faculty investigators to help with Grand Challenges, a global effort to solve key health and development problems.  About 20 other college researchers have been hired over the same period.

At the regional level, Associate Dean Esselman has promoted relationships between physicians and scientists, institutional and business leaders, and community partners, harnessing their combined efforts to transform healthcare in Michigan. He is a key member of: the Gibby and Friends vs Parky Parkinson’s Disease Research Project Award; the Spectrum Health-MSU Alliance; and the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan. Additionally, he leads the MSU Chairs involved in research with colleagues from Van Andel Institute, Spectrum Health, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, and Grand Valley State University, and the researchers and leaders in the Traverse City region.

Before joining the College of Human Medicine, Dr. Esselman served as Chair of the Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics for ten years. Under his leadership, the department recruited more than 20 faculty members in a range of disciplines, including microbial ecology, infectious diseases, genetics, immunology, virology and microbiology. During this period, the research productivity of the department more than doubled, and the department had four National Academy members.

Dr. Esselman earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.) and his PhD in biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University. After post-doctoral work at Michigan State University, he joined the faculty of the departments of Surgery and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics in the College of Human Medicine. His research endeavors have included investigating the mechanism of vascular inflammation in diabetic retinopathy, cellular signaling pathways in lymphocytes, immunology, mass spectrometry, and sphingolipids.